EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -– As thousands of students return to Eugene-Springfield for classes, Eugene City Councilors are weighing a new ordinance to pin bigger fines and penalties on residents hosting unruly parties.
Eugene City Council is now reviewing what's called a Social Host ordinance, a proposal to make those throwing parties more accountable for their actions.
The ordinance is aimed squarely at the thousands of UO students who live in neighborhoods surrounding the campus. Last academic year, more than 500 of the total 1,200 noise and loud-party complaints in Eugene came from the four neighborhoods near the university. Those are also just the calls where a witness who is willing to go on record about the call.
"Loud sort of unruly parties is a growing issue of concern for folks that live around the campus area and the campus area neighborhoods,” says Michael Kinnison with the Neighborhood Services Program for the City of Eugene.
The concern stems from behavior that typically comes with loud parties. Eugene Police and city Neighborhood Services program officials say the loud, unruly parties lead to vandalism and violent crimes, including fights and sexual assault.
Two years ago, Eugene Police was forced to use tear gas to break up a riot of hundreds of students that started from a party near 14th and Ferry Streets. As a result, thousands of dollars worth of city and private property was damaged including several street signs and personal vehicles.
The proposed Social Host ordinance targets the large alcohol-fueled, problematic parties where more than five people are participating, more than two conduct law violations are seen and alcohol is seen being served.
The ordinance would allow police to cite people who are responsible for the party for several hundred dollars in fines. The fines would tally up over the course of a twelve-month span. If a person racks up more than one citation in that time period, the level of fine could go up under the ordinance.
Also, residents and visitors to the property where an unruly party is being thrown could be fined, including people helping to manage or promote the party, such as someone who sends out a social network invitation. Police could also cite property owners under the ordinance, if the property continues to be problematic.
“There's criminal victimization that occurs at these events, so young folks are actually vulnerable at these parties. So we're just hopeful it'll have a positive effect with many other efforts that are occurring to just make it a more pleasant and desirable place to live around the campus area,” says Michael Kinnison with the Neighborhood Services Program for the City of Eugene.
From 2006 to 2010, alcohol violations, noise and disorderly conduct calls have increased 55% in the four neighborhoods surrounding the UO.
UO students, Eugene City Councilors, neighborhood residents, city staff and others all helped draft the proposed Social Host ordinance. Similar ordinances already exist in more than 150 towns across 27 states.
Eugene City Council is still considering the ordinance. Property owners have asked that the tally of fines that could work against a property owner only last the duration of a tenant lease. Councilors have not yet picked a set rate for fines or fine increases.
Councilors will take a look at the ordinance on October 10 in a council work session. The session will not be open to public comment. A November public hearing is slated for the ordinance with a vote scheduled for a council meeting in December.